Last month, we did product and catalog training with our sales staff, and one of the questions we asked our team was this: What standard must work zone traffic control devices meet? Some of them guessed MUTCD, the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which defines the national standards for all traffic-related products, including those used on public streets, highways and private roads.
This was a good guess, but it wasn’t specific enough. The answer we were looking for was NCHRP-350.
NCHRP-350 stands for National Cooperative Highway Research Program Report 350 and is a part of FHWA (Florida Highway Administration) policy that provides crash testing guidance for traffic control devices used in work zones. The standard was published in 1993 and implemented in 1998.
Who Is Responsible for NCHRP-350 Compliance?
The FHWA requires that traffic control devices used in work zones on the NHS (National Highway System) meet the crashworthy requirements of NCHRP-350. A device is considered “crashworthy” once it has met the testing criteria of NCHRP-350 and/or has been issued an Acceptance Letter from the FHWA.
When we think of a work zone and traffic devices, the image that comes to mind is a construction team on the side of the road.
But there’s much more involved behind the scenes than we realize, and that’s where the responsibility of compliance rests.
An article by Water & Wastes Digest explains the shared responsibility this way: “State and local transportation departments would have to ensure their NHS projects comply with the new ruling or risk losing federal funds for a given project. Road contractors would need to use devices that comply with the ruling or risk losing the project. Traffic-control companies would need proof their devices are FHWA-accepted to win projects. And traffic-control device manufacturers will need to show that their devices are crashworthy to obtain sales.”
That said, the reference to NCHRP-350 in a safety product catalog clearly means more than meets the eye. The responsibility of compliance affects multiple levels of interest – from the manufacturer to transportation departments.
Types of Work Zone Devices
Most safety product catalogs, including our own, provide a general organization for work zone products. The NCHRP-350 crash testing guidance goes beyond general product groups by breaking down work zone devices into four specific categories.
1. Category 1 refers to lightweight devices which can be self-certified by the manufacturer. These include cones, barrels, and delineators.
2. Category 2 refers to lightweight devices, such as barricades and sign stands, that require individual crash testing.
3. Category 3 refers to barriers and other fixed or large devices that require crash testing.
4. Category 4 refers to trailer-mounted devices and similar devices, such as arrow panels.
For more information on the types of categories, refer to the FHWA’s website page on Crashworthy Work Zone Traffic Control Devices.
If you’re looking for additional information on work zone traffic control devices and crash testing requirements, some of these resources may be helpful:
The next time you see the short phrase “Meets NCHRP-350” in a catalog product description, don’t just skim over it. Remember that a product tested to this standard is guaranteed to perform dependably and withstand required impact levels.
The information provided is for general purposes only, and not to be relied upon as legal advice, legal opinion, and absolute and complete for the specific facts or circumstances.